Elizabeth Scalia on “The Intrinsic Disorder of Me”

Elizabeth Scalia on “The Intrinsic Disorder of Me” March 12, 2013

This morning, she offers an eye-opening look at a phrase that has more applications than most of us realize:

I am “intrinsically disordered” when it comes to food, and it doesn’t really matter how I became so. Whether it is due to a genetic pre-disposition, or a habit of psychological buffering—or some combination of nature and nurture—the fact remains that I am disordered, and I must deal with it. Every day. Sometimes hour by hour, sometimes minute by tempted minute.

Up to now I have done a very poor job of dealing with it, largely because until that moment of clarity, I had not recognized the disorder. Like most same-sex attracted persons, I had thought of my battles and defeats in terms of weakness, shame; discipline, programming, and willpower; there was no connection to the transcendent, so how could I ever transcend myself?

We are told that the phrase “intrinsically disordered” is hurtful or hateful, and yet I find the words ironically healing; they give me precisely the hook into that transcendent understanding (and into notions of original sin and even idolatry) that I have been missing. Far from taking any offense at the idea that I am “intrinsically disordered,” I am actually consoled.

In identifying my disorder as “intrinsic”—that it resides within me as naturally as the marrow in my bones—I understand that there is no point in attempting to further fool myself or run away from myself; I am released from self-hate, shame, or defensiveness. At the same time, I am now and forever obliged to acknowledge—with every temptation—that I am disordered, and within that acknowledgement to then choose whether I will serve the disorder, at the cost of Heaven, or serve God.

In choosing God, I will have to both rely on God and actively work toward obedience to what is natural in his law, rather than what is natural to me. This is no small thing. It is a daily tension between my love of God and my love of an idol intrinsic to me—original to me.

My intrinsic disorder is my own mysterious original sin; it works ceaselessly—like an ever-ready serpent—to pull me away from God. It demands that I throw myself daily into the outstretched arms of grace, or be lost.

Read it all.  

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